May 232013
 
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East Carolina's Joran Vliegen, left, and Colin Roller compete during a match earlier this season. (ECU Media Relations)

East Carolina’s Joran Vliegen, left, and Colin Roller compete during a match earlier this season. (ECU Media Relations)

By Tony Castleberry

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Making it to an NCAA championship tournament has to be a thrill for any collegiate student-athlete. Being the first from your school to qualify for the NCAAs probably creates an added level of excitement.

Keeping those emotions in check will be crucial for East Carolina’s Colin Roller and Joran Vliegen, the first-ever Pirate doubles team to reach the NCAA tournament. Roller and Vliegen received an automatic bid into the field of 32 pairs and will begin play today against Georgia Tech’s Vikram Hundal and Juan Spir.

ECU coach Shawn Heinchon said his players deserve to be happy about playing in the national tournament, but should not become overwhelmed with the spectacle of it all.

“Far and away, this is the biggest thing that’s happened (individually) at East Carolina, not only in my time, but obviously in the history of the program,” Heinchon said in a phone interview from Urbana, Ill., where the NCAAs are being hosted by the University of Illinois. “Once you get an opportunity to do it, you can get more comfortable being in that realm and a lot of times, that growth, in and of itself, can make you better, just feeling like that’s something that can be done.

“In some ways you’re in a scenario where you don’t have a lot to lose, but in some ways that can actually cause you to perform badly. … The guys greatly value the opportunity to be here. Our biggest challenge from a mental standpoint is to not be getting too excited when we go play. There’s a reason we’re here.”

Vliegen, a 6-foot-3 native of Belgium, and Roller, a 6-4 Land O’Lakes, Fla., product, enter the NCAAs as the 15th seed and are the only Conference USA representatives.

The Pirate duo went 17-0 this season and they will need to continue their stellar play if they want to extend their championship stay since it is a single-elimination tournament.

“The key for us will be getting through that first day,” Heinchon said. “Our tennis and our talent is good enough to have us win some matches out here. How many, if any? I think time will tell. … If we can come out under control and allow ourselves to be as good as we were all spring, the sky’s the limit.

“We’re not talking about losing, but if we do lose (today), it’s all over. All right, here’s your NCAA towel, jump back on the airplane and go home.”

The doubles final is scheduled for Monday.

Contact Tony Castleberry at tcastleberry@reflector.com, 252-329-9591 or follow @tcastleberrygdr on Twitter.

via The Daily Reflector.

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